Tag Archives: Hurricane Irene

A Tale of Two Duvet Covers

Back when I first started quilting, I was very intimidated by the process of quilting itself. Drop the feed dogs on my sewing machine? My sewing would be out of control. Nope, that wasn’t going to happen.

And quilting a bedsized quilt with a household machine? Those big quilts are heavy. Forget about it.
Duvet cover on clothesline
Besides, Jay and I had a very warm, puffy LL Bean quilt for our bed so I had no need to make a big quilt.

All was well until we brought two kittens home, Fred and Barney (yabba, dabba, doo!) They quickly discovered that racing and tumbling across that quilt was great fun, and before you could say “Get off of there, you two!” we had small tears in our quilt.

And the tears, of course, rapidly became a little bit bigger.

So I decided to make duvet covers for the LL Bean quilt. Now an explanation may be in order here for the un-quilted. If you think of a quilt as an Oreo cookie, the top is one chocolate cookie, the backing is the other chocolate cookie, and the layer of batting in the middle is the creamy filling. In a real quilt, once you sandwich these three layers, you stitch (quilt) them together so they function as a single unit.

This sewing can get pretty fancy, hence my feelings of intimidation when I was a newbie.

To make a duvet cover, on the other hand, you sew the top and back together around the outside edge like you’re making a great big bag. Then you slide something warmish, like our quilt-with-little-kitten-tears, inside. You don’t sew the three layers together. It’s like slipping a pillow into a pillowcase. Easy peasy.

So I made two duvet covers, one of which you can see here drying on our clothesline this morning. They served us well in winter. Each spring when the weather got warm, I’d take the quilt out of the duvet, wash everything, and pack them away until fall.

Which is why our duvets and quilt were not together when we got hit by Hurricane Irene and had to evacuate our house while we figured out if it was stable enough to live in. (It was and is.)

In the confusion of moving out and then back in, the duvets went in one direction and the quilty filling in another.

Once we got resettled, I found the duvets readily but the quilt was nowhere (logical) to be found. Every so often, I’d look again—closets, totes, blanket chest.

Nada, nothing, no quilt.

Irene was in 2011 and I finally gave up on finding the quilty filling this past winter. I asked my husband Jay (this man knows how to wield a seam ripper, let me tell you) to take the duvets apart. In fact, he completely dismantled one of the duvet backs, a bunch of large half-square triangles, so I could reuse them in something else.

Of course you know what happened next. Murphy’s Law intervened, and we found the quilt this summer in a tote under a workbench in the shed attached to our house. We haven’t a clue how it ended up there.

After thinking about it for a while, I’ve decided not to put the duvets together again. Instead, I’m going to make new backs for them then ship them off to a friendly long arm quilter to be made into “real” quilts.

I’m not sure what I’m going to do with the quilty filling but I’m thinking of dividing it up and making dog beds.

And if I ever get the opportunity to meet this Murphy character, we are going to have a very serious chat about messing around in people’s lives.

Making My Way Back to You, Girl

Sometimes, we just need to stop and remember our place in the world, beneath the sun, above the earth, among the trees.

Of all the treasures we lost because of Irene, it’s the river bottom land that I walked nearly every day of the 18 years we’ve lived here that I miss the most.

Try as I might, I cannot become accustomed to the way it looks now—covered in three feet of silt, gobs of grit-filled leaves strangling the branches, trees down everywhere, huge piles of debris.

To us, this was a paradise, a small green place where we recognized and looked for certain plants at certain times, where we watched the population of waterfowl grow, where we watched pink sunsets from rocks that jutted out into the water. There was a small tree, most likely a dead staghorn sumac, that loomed over the trail at a certain point. When it snowed, the white drape made it look like a magical dragon’s head.

Yes, I know. I am still grieving.

But some days, I just have to focus on the fact that the sun still rises every morning, that Orion has wheeled out of the sky until the weather cools once again, that the phases of the moon do pass with a reassuring regularity. Last night, two bright planets stood together in the western sky, reminding me, yet again, of my place in this wondrous universe.

The nature of the world took away the special place I loved so dearly. But the Great Mother herself reminds me every day that she has not abandoned me.

But there are times when this kind of gratitude comes hard.

Dear Jane


Not long after we got hit by Hurricane Irene, a friend of my son’s sent me an article from the Chronicle of Philanthropy about the healing balm to be found in classic literature.

When we are under stress, the article stated, we find comfort in the familiar. And for readers, that comfort is most often found in classic literature.

When Marie sent me the article, I was re-reading Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence, one of my all-time favorites. But as much as I enjoy Edith, it’s Jane Austen who rules my heart when it comes to comfort books.

For years, my collection of Janes was a rather dilapidated mess of old paperbacks, a couple of which had failed bindings. I once sighed over this, and told my husband that “someday, I am going to buy myself a full set of Jane in hardcover so I can read and re-read them to my heart’s content.” That year, for my birthday, he presented me with this wonderful set of Jane Austen done by the Oxford University Press from the earliest print editions of her work. They are a treasure of historical and literary pleasure.

The comfort of familiar books is powerful. It’s the reason why young children want to “read” the same book over and over because what Bartholomew does with the Oobleck on page 10 is exactly what he did on page 10 the last time the book was opened. Books are rational in that way, behaving as expected again and again.

And for me, when my whole life has been turned upside down by a hurricane or illness, there’s nothing better than Jane.

Today, I’m restarting my quest for Irene recovery funds to stabilize the bank on which our house sits. Please pass the Pride and Prejudice.